Copyrights and Clearance

The BSA has a "lock" on all of its insignia, badges, uniforms, and flags. Period.

The BSA has been liberal with how it carries out its' responsibility to insure that its items are being used by folks either currently engaged in the program, by those local Councils with responsibilities to insure that the program is being promoted and displayed properly, by those with an ongoing interest or background in the program, and by those supporters and cheerleaders of the program (like myself).

In some rather extreme conditions, the BSA has used that responsibility to go into someone's home and remove all BSA items, with a court order upholding that the insignia, while it was presented or earned by the individual, is still the property of the BSA and can be recalled at any time by the BSA. The BSA does hold a copyright to its insignia and those issued through local Councils.

"How can this be so? I don't see the small copyright emblem on anything I have at home..."

The BSA has a Federal Charter. Part of that federal charter establishes copyright for anything that the Corporation (the BSA is referred to as a Corporation in the Charter) produces since 1911. This means that all insignia and badges do NOT have to have the small 'c' emblem on them in order for the BSA to lay claim to them. In 1975, the BSA renewed that committment and Congress asked the BSA to provide some means to allow those outside the program to KNOW that the item "belongs to the BSA". The BSA developed several "indicia" which they then required local Councils to add somewhere on their insignia and badges and the BSA has developed or incorporated them into other items. Some items, for instance, the cloth square knot emblems and the Eagle Scout Badge, need no indicia because of their uniqueness and therefore are listed as copyrighted items. Several other items have special glue with BSA indicia or logos on their backsides.

In 2002, the BSA created a unique "descriptive indicia" which is imprinted on the backside of EVERY patch, decal, or emblem (to include merit badges and other uniform insignia). This "descriptive indicia" is designed to reduce "knock off" insignia and insure Scouts and Venturers (and their parents) as well as Scouters that indeed they are holding "the real deal". A special version of this indicia was used to "mark" official BSA insignia in connection with the BSA's 100th anniversary.

All BSA items listed or described in the Insignia Guide are Copyright Boy Scouts of America. There are some items which the BSA took the special step of registering it with a trademark (tm). Those include all National Scout Jamboree patches since 1997 and some other items. Additionally, words which now are in American vocabs have been registered in the United States with a "registered trademark: National Scout Jamboree(R), Boy Scouts of America(R), Jamboree(R), Boy Scouts(R), Cub Scouts(R), Pinewood Derby(R), Space Derby(R), Raingutter Regatta(R), and a few others. This is NOT to prevent Scouts and Scouters and those supporting the program from using the words and terms and displaying the insignia; but rather to prevent those from making money on the "good name" and the programs of the BSA.

Indicia? Like marks on the patches?? Where?

Indicia are defined by the Boy Scouts of America as "insignia or items containing one or more" of the following:

Sometimes you'll have to look really, really close, especially on CSPs and OA patches. Some designers of those patches had the fleur-de-lis or other indicia "double stitched" into the patch so that you can only view it by tilting or moving the patch in the light!

(Tbe previous indicia "Scouting/USA" is NOT considered as official BSA indicia anymore; and the Scouting Red and White Scouting/USA logo is no longer considered an official BSA logo.)

"So, how do I get a badge made for my unit? For my District or Council?"

Unit insignia are controlled by the chartered organization and are approved by the Council's Scout Executive. The Scout Executive (sometimes called the Council Executive in smaller Councils) is *the senior most professional member* of that Council. District Executives and District Directors do NOT have the authority to approve insignia. Nor do Venturing Executives nor Field Directors. ONLY THE COUNCIL'S SCOUT EXECUTIVE HAS THIS AUTHORITY BY BSA POLICY. The Council Scout Executive should approve it PRIOR to you getting the patches made. If by chance the Council's Scout Executive does NOT approve the item, he or she has the RIGHT (and obligation) to collect ALL of the items and to return them to the company which made the emblems or to destroy them. You will NOT be entitled to your money back. This is because once again, insignia in the BSA used by its members are the property of the BSA. So, if your chartered organization has approved a special patch for your membership, make sure that your Council has also approved it for wear beforehand.

District and Council insignia are likewise controlled by the Council's Scout Executive for wear on the official uniforms. Each quarter, the Districts place their orders for insignia and designs are then approved by the Council's Scout Executive before ordering. The District and Council orders are controlled by their budget and the type of activity. Care will be made to insure that a Council is not creating a special emblem for which the National Uniform and Insignia Committee has already made or authorized a emblem for. As a reminder, the BSA does NOT allow Districts to have their own "distinctive uniform emblem." This is NOT a new policy, but one which is more and more being enforced.

On the other hand, Councils can create and are encouraged to develop special insignia in connection with national program themes or projects and for this reason, National sends local Councils "blank patches" with a pre-approved design on them to which the Council can simply tailor it to their own needs by sending it back with the information to be sewn around the outside explaining the activity or special reason for the emblem. It is a relatively inexpensive way for the Council to be "tied to the national program."

"I've got this badge from another Scouter/a private firm that sells special items/during a training session in another Council and I want to wear it. Can I or do I need permission from National to do so?"

Generally, badges awarded or presented or made available in any other BSA local Council can be worn by Scouters and Scouts in all other local Councils. To insure that this insignia is "Okay" with your Council, simply talk with your Council's Scout Executive and show him or her the patch, emblem or other item and how you've received it. He or she will give you verbal and/or written permission to wear it, or explain why you cannot wear the item on your uniform. It is HIS OR HER DECISION... not yours... as to what can be worn on the field uniform of the BSA. So don't put him or her in a position by wearing it first and then "seeking forgiveness" from him or her for wearing it. Sometimes, Council policy or a National policy keeps people from wearing whatever they want to wear on the uniform. So, it's not an issue of him or her NOT wanting you to wear the item; it may be a *national policy* that only certain patches can be worn in certain places.

There are also special "spoof patches" which are displayed on this website as well as through other resources, which *DEPENDING ON YOUR COUNCIL'S SCOUT EXECUTIVE*, can be worn or not by Scouters and Scouts.

"I want to make a patch and sell it to Scouters. Can I?"

Sure you can. If you have the money, you can create anything you want. But you CAN NOT copy a BSA design and sell it as your own. For instance, you cannot copy the Bobcat Badge and add your own text and sell it to Scouters or Scouts. But you can make a separate badge with a bobcat on it, and as long as it doesn't look like the official Bobcat cloth badge, you can sell it, trade it, auction it, or give it away to anyone you choose to do so. This is the reason why the BSA trademarked the Jamboree emblems...there were some Scouters that took the basic design and had patch companies to make "knockoffs" of the Jamboree emblem adding the words "Staff" or "Trading Post" or the name of a center within the Jamboree that they were working or serving as staff for.

"My Council produces CSPs as the wind blows...why can't I develop a CSP for my unit or community??"

You can, if your Council Scout Executive approves the design and the content of the emblem. Some Council Scout Executives have approved such items for historical units within their Council that wanted to wear something closely identifying them with their unit and community. But it's an exception to the stated policy which states that COUNCILS develop Council Shoulder Strips. A recent BSA policy change removed the ability of local Councils to place the name of the city and state of their Council headquarters (called the "headquarters city") on CSPs. All CSPs must contain the STATE (or STATES) in which they serve unless it's a part of the name of the Council (for instance, "Southeast Alaska Council", "Nevada Area Council", or "Central Iowa Council").

Areas outside the United States belonging to the BSA's Direct Service have developed special "Unit Shoulder Patches (USPs) that are worn instead of the standard Direct Service CSP. They do so normally under the permission of the Administrator, BSA Direct Service. Some don't go that extra mile and get that permission, and therefore their patches are officially NOT supposed to be worn on their uniforms... I leave that to you as a morality issue.

"So who is it that I give this design or patch to for approval? How long do I wait for his or her approval?"

Clearances for your special emblems or for those not normally issued through your Council are sent or given to your Council's Scout Executive, as explained above. It is his or her decision to decide on the usefullness or not of the insignia or other item. They should be able to approve it or not right away; in some unusual circumstances, they may have to do some research and get back with you within a couple of days to a week. If you haven't heard from him or her, either in writing or in person, you can take it that the badge or item is "okay to wear." (Remember, like you and I, they are really busy folks and may have forgotten about doing the approval!)

For units receiving Direct Service from the BSA's International Division, it is the Direct Service Administrator or the International Division Director who decides on insignia for units belonging to Direct Service.


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